Wake Up Call

Baby Eels Reappearing on British Menus for the First Time in 30 Years

This season, fishermen in the U.K. have been able to pull extremely high numbers of elver eels out of Britian's River Severn. The baby eels, sometimes called glass eels, used to be a cheap regional treat but high demand boosted prices in the '70s and '80s, making the little worm-like fish too pricey for most.

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Recently, however, there's been a surge of baby eels. As a result, prices are down and the delicacy is reappearing on local restaurant menus for the first time in decades.

Experts think the number of elver eels could reach up to 100 million this year according to Daily Mail/. That would make this the biggest harvest in 30 years. It's dropped prices from £200 -- about $300 -- a kilo to just £85 ($129).

There are so many eels that fishermen have stopped selling them to middlemen, who are so inundated with product that they can't take on any more, and going directly to restaurants and chefs instead. Chef Robert Sinyard of Tiger's Eye restaurant in Southgate Street is serving the eels cooked with bacon and scrambled egg for about $12 a plate.

According to the Times, the eels are a hot commodity in Asia, where they're sold for sushi -- which is a main factor in what drove the prices sky high. Occasionally, you'll also find them on menus at high-end U.S. restaurants (think, French Laundry and Daniel), where they're fried or sauteed in olive oil and garlic.

Though the eels are considered an endangered species, experts say this year's run could possibly sustain the eel population for the next decade. Already more than 600,000 eels have been donated for re-stocking rivers throughout the country, which is important since flood barriers would otherwise prevent them from migrating into rivers and tributaries.

In the past, when elvers were readily available, there was an annual elver-eating contest on the village green at Frampton on Severn. Contestants would wolf down a pound of fried elvers. The competition had to be stopped when the eels became too expensive.

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Lauren Saria
Contact: Lauren Saria